Archdiocese launches program to connect Hispanic families with Catholic schools

BRAINTREE -- On Nov. 16 the Archdiocese of Boston Catholic Schools Office launched Pathways of Hope/Caminos de Esperanza, a pilot program that assists schools with the recruitment of Hispanic families. Thirteen elementary schools are participating in the program.

According to a national survey conducted by the Roche Center for Catholic Education and the School of Theology and Ministry of Boston College, more than 40 percent of all Catholics in the country are Hispanic. Further, approximately 60 percent of Catholics under the age of 18 are Hispanic, and more than 90 percent of these children were born in the United States.

The Catholic Schools Office recognizes the impact that this change in the demographic profile has on enrollment at Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. Superintendent Kathy Mears said, "We believe Catholic schools are an essential ministry of the Catholic Church, and we are honored to educate Hispanic students as we continue our mission to develop saints and scholars. We must offer the opportunity of a Catholic education to every Catholic child, an education that allows students to learn about their faith as they thrive academically."

The 13 schools in the Archdiocese that are participating in the pilot program are: East Boston Central Catholic School; Immaculate Conception School, Newburyport; Immaculate Conception School, Revere; Immaculate Conception School, Marlborough; Sacred Heart School, Lynn; Sacred Hearts School, Haverhill; St. Agatha School, Milton; St. Anthony School, Everett; St. Bridget School, Framingham; St. Monica School, Methuen; St. Pius Fifth School, Lynn; St. Rose of Lima School, Chelsea; and St. Jude School, Waltham.

These schools were selected based on the following criteria: demographics of the school neighborhood and surrounding towns; the presence and growth of Hispanic families in the community; the current enrollment of the school; and the readiness of the principal and other school staff to work on this initiative.

During this pilot program, the Catholic Schools Office will work closely with these schools on their enrollment plans and retention strategies. In addition, the CSO will create a professional support system and learning community, which will allow the schools to share best practices.

"Based on the work with these schools, we will create a blueprint of implementation for other schools in the coming years," said Mears.

Sister Barbara Gutierrez, SNDdeN, is the director of enrollment and marketing for the Catholic Schools Office, and she is the leader of this program.

Sister Barbara said, "The enrollment in these 13 schools is currently 2,495 students. Our target is to increase enrollment by 65 students during the first year. One way that we will achieve this goal is by reaching out to families in new ways and letting them know that Catholic schools are accessible and affordable. We also want to create culturally responsive and welcoming environments to increase retention."

She continued, "It is important to note, that although this program aims to invite all families, it has an emphasis to reach out to low-income and immigrant families because they represent the growth on some of these communities."

Mary DeAngelo, principal at Sacred Heart School in Lynn, said, "Pathways to Hope is an exciting initiative that Sacred Heart is happy to be part of. This will help increase our enrollment among Hispanic families while giving them a quality Catholic education. We are located in a very diverse community with a large Hispanic population, and this initiative will strengthen Sacred Heart School and share our good work with new families."